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Analysis-Biden’s Taiwan remarks show conviction to defend island but carry risks -Breaking


© Reuters. U.S. President Joe Biden attended a press conference held at Akasaka Guest House, Tokyo, Japan on May 23, 2022. Nicolas Datiche/Pool via REUTERS

David Brunnstrom and Michael Martina

WASHINGTON (Reuters] – A politician’s misinterpretation of what they actually mean is a gaffe. Critics of U.S. President Joe Biden claim that he’s done his share in Taiwan.

Biden made the statement Monday during his first Asia trip as President, indicating that the United States would intervene militarily in the event of China attacking democratic Taiwan. It seems this is a break from a long-held American policy that has not been clear about how it might react.

It was just the latest of a string of seemingly off-the-cuff statements by the U.S. commander-in-chief that suggested his desire to defend the Chinese-claimed islands.

Even those who support Washington’s “strategic uncertainty” policy over Taiwan are critical of him. They argue that his confusion of the issue could lead to China wanting to move faster, and without the formal security guarantee.

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Other policy analysts though, such as David Sacks of the Council on Foreign Relations, said that Biden’s extensive foreign policy experience, and the context in which he made the remarks – next to Japan’s prime minister and after the Russian invasion of Ukraine – suggested he didn’t misspeak.

He said, “I think that this wasn’t a joke.”

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After Biden replied “yes” to an interviewer asking him if the United States would intervene militarily in case of Chinese aggression on Taiwan, the White House and U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin quickly stated that the U.S. had not changed its position.

Analysts believe that repeated comments made by the president earlier in his presidency show his personal desire to make an intervention.

“He is clear in his belief that the U.S. should react to Chinese military aggression towards Taiwan. Daniel Russel was the U.S.’s top East Asia diplomat during Obama’s administration.

Taiwan’s foreign minister thanked Biden and expressed gratitude, but Wang Wenbin, spokesperson for China’s foreign Ministry said that Beijing is not open to compromises or concessions in matters related to its sovereignty.

Biden leaves himself a lot of room for maneuver, especially when it comes to the question whether “military involvement” would mean that U.S. troops are sent into combat.

Reuters did not reach out to the White House National Security Council or State Department regarding this matter.

The Biden administration has repeatedly invoked Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – to which the United States has been funneling billions of dollars in military support – and signaled that China should not consider a similar move on Taiwan.

However, wary of creating conflict with Russia’s nuclear-armed Russia and supplying lethal weaponsry, the U.S. government made it clear that U.S. support for Ukraine did not amount to direct military involvement.

Although Biden’s comment may allay some fears about American security partners, given the refusal of his administration to risk war with Russia outright, it can also raise concerns in other regions about the possibility of an U.S.-China conflict.

Douglas Paal (an ex-unofficial U.S. Ambassador to Taiwan) stated that he doesn’t consider this to be helping Taiwan keep safe and the region tranquil.


Although the Biden administration insists that it does not abandon its longstanding “one China” policy which officially recognizes Beijing but not Taipei as a diplomatic entity, both Beijing and Washington have changed their attitudes toward Taiwan.

In recent years, once rare sorties of China’s Air Force into Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zones (ADIZs) have dramatically increased. Beijing is also voicing harsh criticisms against Taipei.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government is increasing engagement with Taiwan. They are continuing arms sales to Taiwan. And earlier this month, State Department quietly updated their webpage, detailing unofficial links to Taiwan. This removed any references to China.

Bonnie Glaser of The German Marshall Fund of USA, Taiwan, suggested that Biden could be deterred by China’s comments.

“I think that is the right objective, but I believe the confusion surrounding U.S. policy could undermine deterrence – it could provoke the attack that we seek to deter,” she said.

Republicans have criticized some Republicans’ criticisms of Democrat Bidens repeated remarks about Taiwan.

According to the conservative Heritage Foundation, Dean Cheng said that Washington would be best if it abandoned ambiguity in its relationship with Taiwan.

He said that Biden’s comments on Taiwan “creates the potential to a ticking time in Beijing” and referred to Biden’s remarks. China could be interested in taking action if the Americans slowly shift towards strategic clarity before making that statement.